A 16-year-old girl was savagely raped and murdered on the way home from her part-time job at the library in 1980 by two men, but while one of the men will soon walk free, the other will remain behind bars.
The New York state parole board voted to deny parole for 58-year-old Robert McCain—just weeks after the same board made the decision to grant parole to his fellow killer Richard LaBarbera.
The decision came as a welcome surprise to Paula Bohovesky’s family, who has been working tirelessly for weeks to increase awareness about the case and voice their opposition to the decision to release LaBarbera.
The case has prompted around 1,500 Pearl River community members to take to the streets last week to oppose the decision to release LaBarbera and even garnered the attention of former New York Gov. George Pataki, who made a public plea for current Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene in whatever way he could, though the governor doesn't have power to block the parole board's decision.
Despite the vocal opposition to releasing the killers, Bohovesky’s family had braced themselves for parole board members to make the same decision as they had in LaBarbera’s case.
"I'm flabbergasted," the victim’s mother, 87-year-old Lois Bohovesky told The Rockland/Westchester Journal News. "I am absolutely surprised. We all thought it would be the other way around, especially after the other one got released."
Although transcripts from previous parole hearing indicate that both men have never expressed any remorse or claimed responsibility for Paula’s murder, her mother believes the board may have opted not to release McCain because he was “always so angry and confrontational with the board.”
Investigators at the time also believed that McCain, a career criminal from Arkansas, was the one who initiated the attack by striking Paula in the head with a chunk of pavement.
McCain and LaBarbera had been drinking at a local bar on the evening of Oct. 28, 1980 when they saw Paula, an aspiring artist, walking home from her part-time job. They quickly caught up to the teen and investigators said McCain struck her in the head to subdue her before sexually assaulting her. LaBarbera also tried to sexually assault the teen, believing that she was already dead, but when she began to stir he fatally stabbed her five times in the back, Fox News reports.
Both men were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the slaying in 1981.
In the parole board’s written decision, which was obtained by the news organization, the board notes that McCain continues to maintain his innocence despite signed statements admitting responsibility before the case ever went to trial.
“The recent and strenuous community opposition and official opposition indicates your release at this time would not be compatible with the welfare of society,” the decision read. “Further, your release would trivialize the tragic loss of a teenager’s life and the years of harm to the family and the community and would, therefore, deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law.”
While Paula’s family is pleased that McCain will remain behind bars, they also continued to voice opposition to 66-year-old LaBarbera release. LaBarbera had been out on parole for a drug conviction when the young teen was killed.
“I just wish LaBarbera was not granted release,” she said. “He’s not safe to have on the street.”
The sentiment was echoed by Rockland County Executive Ed Day, who has vocally opposed LaBarbera’s release.
“I want to thank everyone who has been and continues to be focused on restoring justice for Paula,” he said according to The Clarkstown Daily Voice. “Today, it is clear that your words and actions have had an effect. However, there will be no celebration of his victory, and our collective response will be muted as Richard LaBarbera may soon walk free on the same streets of Pearl River where he brutally murdered Paula Bohovesky nearly 40 years ago.”
Those opposed to the decision—including Paula’s niece Abigail Bohovesky who launched a “Say Something” campaign on YouTube—are hoping Cuomo will ask the parole board to reconsider their decision on LaBarbera.
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